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Fans gather at the Ryman Auditorium for memorial celebration of Naomi Judd

Naomi Judd honored at televised public memorial service
Posted at 9:46 PM, May 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 06:51:33-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Friends, family and fans said goodbye to a country music legend at the Mother Church of Country Music

A line formed outside the Ryman Auditorium where the CMT live special "Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration" took place.

Ashley Judd opened the show sharing the story of Diana Ellen Judd before the world came to know her as Naomi Judd.

"She was every woman," said Ashley. "Perhaps this is why everyone thought they knew her. She was a nurse, she was a single mom who sometimes relied on public assistance, she was traumatized by early childhood abuse, intimate partner violence and rape and she was fired by a boss when she refused to go away with him for a weekend.”

Ashley eulogized her mother, chronicling her successful career. She said, "the result is that we are here tonight remembering an icon and a legend who left country music better than she found it.”

Wynonna then performed, singing the words written by her mother.

Audiences even heard from Naomi herself during a video montage.

Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Bette Midler were among Naomi's friends who shared special messages in-between performances from acts like Brad Paisley, Little Big Town and Brandi Carlile.

But the night wasn't without some laughter.

"This isn't easy," said Wynonna on stage beside her sister and Larry Strickland, Naomi's devoted husband. "I don't know why we're doing this in public, it sucks. But we're doing it aren't we? We're showing the world what a dysfunctional family does. You show up for each other, right?"

It was in the anecdotes shared by the Judd family that audiences learned about the true Naomi.

Ashley said, "she had aprons at the holidays that she wanted everyone to wear so there could be a good picture for the book."

And despite the sadness, there was a moment of hope. "I'm going to have to honor her and do this tour," said Wynonna.

The Judds tour will continue this fall as planned, in honor of Naomi.

To end the night, the audience joined Wynonna singing "Love Can Build a Bridge"- words with a heavy meaning on such a special night.

After the memorial, there was a procession down Lower Broadway where fans lined the streets to pay their respects as Ashley and Wynonna Judd waved and showed their appreciation.